Posted by Tim Stobbs on September 8, 2009
Perhaps one of the more annoying habits my oldest boy has developed is the assumption that we are going to buy something for him when we are out shopping. Unfortunately I know exactly how this has developed. My wife’s business recently got a grant to buy some toys, craft supplies and other equipment for her daycare. So often now when she is out she spends part of that grant money and our boy can’t separate in his head that some things are for the daycare and some are for him (he is only four).
So when I’m out with him he assumes I’m going to buy him something and it has often ended in tears. We have tried to explain many times over when we are shopping that some days we don’t have the money to buy him something, with limited success. Then recently I took a different tactic: I told him before we left, when we got into the parking lot that we are only buying certain items. We go look at the toys when we are in the store, but he does seem to get the idea that today we are not buying anything. I managed to get out of the store without a single whining noise or tear.
Now we have a effective method of controlling his expectations and he seems to get ‘not today’ better than ‘no.’ This makes sense if you think of it from an adults point of view. Saving for anything is actually just about the same thing. It’s saying ‘not today’ to something rather than ‘no’. So once I manged to wrap my head around that concept I can relate a bit better to my son’s issues. ‘No’ sounds a bit too final and can slip into the concept of ‘never’ very quickly. While ‘not today’ allows for hope and the continued dreaming about the item, which as some adults know can often be better than actually having that item.
So that’s is what’s working now for us. How do you manage your kids expectations? Does a flat out ‘No’ work, or do you have to use some different wording?